Angela Yee is perhaps best known as the host of The Breakfast Club radio show, which she presented in New York City from 2010 until the show’s end in August last year. She now hosts Way Up With Yee on iHeartRadio.
Yee recently appeared on the Black Vegan Cooking Show with Chef Charlise Rookwood. The episode was to celebrate Black Women’s History Month, and the two cooked up a range of vegan dishes. This included Buffalo cauliflower and zucchini, banana blossom “FISH FRY,” and vegan bread pudding.
Plant Based News writer MeccaGodZilla went behind the scenes at the shoot and interviewed Yee about plant-based living and her career.
Find the interview below…
Angela, as somebody that’s been involved in the Hip Hop and R&B community for many years, how do you see the intersection of plant-based living and Hip Hop culture? And what role do you think artists can play in promoting a healthier lifestyle?
I think so many people watch what artists are doing. So when they can live a certain lifestyle and organically promote it, people really will follow and believe that. We see NLE Choppa and what he’s doing with his lifestyle, being vegan and having the truck and all of that… Styles P with the juice bars and the pharmacy… even when we opened Juices for Life at first, I remember Common coming through. We see Jeezy and how much he slimmed down and paid attention to what he’s eating. And I just think that it’s something for other people to pay attention to. Because the earlier you start practicing healthy habits, the better it will be for you in the long run.
We’ve seen a lot of people just look healthier, younger, and feel better. We’ve seen people who’ve had health issues, and we’ve seen people in our community die from health issues. So it’s just really important to make sure that we push these healthy habits.
A lot of times where we grow up can dictate the type of foods that we eat. We talk about food deserts, we talk about on every corner having a burger and wing spot and liquor stores and all of that, but it’s just as important to have those healthy options. I think if you seek out certain things, you can find it. I feel like there’s a lot more access now than there’s ever been. A lot more people are talking about it. And I love it.
Watch the Black Vegan Cooking Show episode here
You’re one of the co-owners of Juices for Life, and your juice bars offer a variety of healthy and nutritious drinks. How do you see this business fitting into the larger plant-based movement or larger health movement? And what impact do you hope that it has on our community?
In the coffee shop, what has been important for me is just having a lot of vegan offerings in the coffee shop. And I also know in the community it’s important for people to try different things.
I know people who don’t do vegan, that word is scary to them because they think it’s nasty. And so, even having the juice bar for people to realize that these juices are delicious. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it tastes bad. It can be healthy and taste amazing. And that’s the main thing that I wanna push to people… that things can taste great but also be beneficial for your body.
A lot of the businesses that I do with the press juices that I have… people are like, “oh, this is really good!” or “oh, I never used to like beets but I like your beet ginger aid – I didn’t know beets could taste like this!” I just want people to expand their palate just like I’ve done. And I know because I’ve been there too, where I’m like, “oh, I’m not having that. I’m not eating that…” You know, some people think it’s nasty to put kale or spinach in a drink or even celery. But they don’t know the combinations of things you can put with that so that it all can taste really good.
The evolution of vegan food
That’s really dope. I love to hear that! Just on a personal level, I know from my own juices and smoothies that you can mask the taste of spinach and kale. So I gotta ask, because even on the Black Vegan Cooking Show with Chef Charlise (@Vegansoulicious), like you said, you’ve been vegan before for short periods of time. So during those periods, what were you “go to” foods?
Well, I love quinoa. I never used to like it until I did the detox that I did. Also, I love zucchini and I like squash. Those are some of what I enjoy… I love a veggie stir fry, you know, and so if I can make my own, I make my veggie stir fry and put that over some quinoa. Sauces are important to me. I love a good dipping sauce, I just had the vegan mayonnaise. I never do mayonnaise period, but that didn’t taste bad.
Oh that’s good, come on over to our side haha. OK, in your opinion, because the era that we came from… vegan food wasn’t necessarily the tastiest and we’ve watched it evolve over time. You know what I’m saying? In the past, it was not on point at all (at least it wasn’t clear how to make the foods taste as amazing as they do today). So was there anything that you’ve seen or wanted to try that was either super delicious, or is there any foods that you’ve seen nowadays that are kind of innovative to where you wanna try it?
I used to work for Wu-Tang Clan, a lot of them were very into vegan items, but I remember some of the stuff was nasty. Like vegan bologna, they had vegan pastrami. And even I feel like when vegan bacon first came out, it was kind of nasty and cardboard-ish, but I feel like that’s evolved so much. I also know that processed food in general is not always the best for you. You’re just doing it because you want to have an option that’s not meat, and that’s fine. I try not to overdo it. I’ve never done a vegan chili. I know people love that.
Wow, a vegan chili sounds amazing. Nice! Ok, so last question. What message would you like to send to your fans and followers about the importance of healthy living plant-based living? And how do you see plant-based living fitting into larger issues of health, wellness, and sustainability? You kinda answered that earlier, but just kind of wrapping that up. What would you like to say to your fans?
I feel that just seeing the effects the pandemic had on so many people and how it disproportionately affected certain people who had health issues. And a lot of times that was us. So, just making sure that you take care of your health and pay attention to it early on. And making sure you go to the doctor and get checked out. I found out I had really high cholesterol when I was younger, and went to the doctor really early. And thank God I found out when I did, but it’s so important to get your blood work done, make sure you know what’s going on with your body.
And so I just think all of those things matter. I think that if you have a family, you wanna take care of your family and part of that is taking care of yourself. And so, the worst feeling would be if you have children or you have loved ones around you… and now you have all of these health issues that you could have prevented if you took better care of yourself.
That’s an important thing to think about. We care so much about what we look like on the outside and we really have to pay a lot of attention to what our insides are like too. It’s probably even more important than anything and then just the way that it makes you feel.
I just know when I eat I’m not supposed to be exhausted afterwards or have “the itis”, or I feel like I don’t wanna do anything. You’re supposed to eat and feel great after. And a lot of that is based on the type of food that we eat. Also not overeating – a lot of times you feel like you have to finish what’s on your plate. When we go to restaurants, they give you these huge meals. You don’t have to eat everything. What I started to do was take half of it home as soon as I sit down and wrap half of the meal up and I eat half of it there. There’s just small things that you can do. You don’t have to be perfect and it’s ok not to be, but just make some really conscious, intentional decisions until they become a habit.